satellite radio cool for a year or two

I recently got back on sat radio with Sirius/XM. Now I see they’re floundering? I can’t say I’m totally surprised. While the idea of “commercial-less” music and radio is brilliant and necessary, as well as the beauty of being able to listen to what I want as opposed to what happens to be in my midwestern farm-state area, that has to balance with the fact that it costs money vs free FM/AM radio, and household budgets are tightening.

I don’t think sat radio has a real market anymore; it was a transitional piece kinda like Blu-ray today. What I think will be the future is all of the web-based podcast and radio stations (like my favorite somafm). All it takes is the ability for my car to get on an internet connection and pump out a stream into my receiver. That’s it! Sat radio is still a closed system, even if they do have 3000 channels. Give me an open system like the Internet to choose my station… With Sirius/XM, I’m paying for 297 channels I typically don’t listen to, and the 3 I do listen to are sometimes playing things that suck and make me go back to my ipod or cowon or a disc. The most expensive channels (Howard Stern, Martha Stewart) I’ve never and never will listen to.

And it doesn’t even have to be a subscription fee system! Just charge for the cables/receiver to handle streams, and then pay for what many of us already have: sat data connections through something like our phones. If our fav stations want donations or fees, then so be it.

I get some “ok” stations on sat radio, but I’ll get exactly what I want at all times when given the freedom of selection from the entire Internet. Seriously, Pandora streamed to my car? Hawt.

Can Sirius/XM save themselves? Sure, but only if the music/radio industry as a whole doesn’t stop them. Sirius/XM already has all the logistics to beam me somafm or Pandora. They just need to license it. And that’s where I think the industry will politically block them. I don’t think the general music industry dare reverse their years-long fights against online broadcasters…bastards.

2 thoughts on “satellite radio cool for a year or two

  1. IIRC, the entire XM constellation has a combined bandwidth of 1.6 Mb/s — their most audio-intensive stations only use up around 64 kb/s of bandwidth. The talk stations are coming in at around 8 kb/s. They just use codecs and encoders that are really good at making audio sound reasonably good at low bitrates. This is why it’d be difficult to put something like Pandora over XM — assuming they shut down their radio service and became a sat-over-internet provider, one person streaming music would use up 8% of their entire data capacity. I imagine the dozen or so subscribers would have to have a very high monthly fee in order to keep XM running! 🙂 It’s too bad, too, as I like the idea of sat internet for what I do, but the only providers who give any kind of speed are the kinds of providers who mainly sell to mariners, mountaineers, and mercenaries.
    Probably more likely is that cellular data technology will become integrated with cars. You can already get what you’re looking for right now if you’re willing to be geeky enough — just get a smartphone with that will run Pandora and that has an audio-out ability. Plug that baby into the AUX of your head unit and you have streaming music. Data coverage for Sprint, Verizon, and Alltel is extremely good in most areas and is getting better; using Alltel last year I was able to stream out video from a dashcam in the middle of Western Kansas where the nearest sign of civilization was a herd of cows 6 miles away. (And that was without an external antenna — most of the guys that I know who do this plug $200 into an external amp and antenna, pretty much pushing your data range to anywhere in the U.S. you could or would ever want to drive to.) Data coverage for AT&T is horrible in comparison, but the iPhone has them scrambling to man up.

  2. What, you don’t want to be a weather mercenary? 🙂
    That’s awesome info! What I had in mind was more of a sat provider that basically terminates pandora streams, recodes it how they want to encode it, and then pumps it out at that low bandwidth.
    But yeah, I think it will be far more feasible to just tether a cell data link to the car. In all honesty, I already have all the pieces except (possibly) a phone that can pull in streaming. Well, and a real data plan.
    Hell, that might just be enough prompting to upgrade to a smart phone of some sort that actually easily can do something like stream support.

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